By Basilea Schlink
Ingratitude-an ugly trait? Especially when it is directed against someone who has made sacrifices for us and done many good things for us. Our ingratitude can hurt such people deeply. What sorrow there is in Jesus' words when only one of the ten lepers that were healed came back to thank Him. "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" (Luke 17: 18).
But today our ingratitude is even more serious, because we actually do not appreciate the gift that surpasses all understanding-Jesus' forgiveness and His vicarious atonement for us. His sacrifice for us reveals that we as sinners need the redemption of Jesus and that we in no way have deserved love from God. Because everything we receive from God is undeserved, including what He lets other people give us, it should be a matter of course for us to thank Him. But, if we do not give thanks for His grace and undeserved gifts, we are like parasites and we should not be amazed when the wrath of God comes upon us.
Ingratitude is a serious sin. The Holy Scriptures say that it is one of the characteristics of the antichristian spirit of the last times (2 Tim. 3: 2). It will be judged severely by God. Therefore, we have to overcome all the ingratitude in our hearts if we are to belong to Jesus in eternity. We have to see what an ugly trait it is. We must be resolute and not tolerate it any longer, because it hurts the Father's heart so deeply and provokes His wrath against us.
How can we overcome our ingratitude? Here too we must first recognize the root. Just like many other sins, its root lies in pride. The proud take it for granted that people will give them things. Consciously or unconsciously they think they have a right to receive gifts. Their eyes are blind towards all the good things that the heavenly Father gives them. In their pride they think, even when they are not consciously aware of it, that they have the right to enough, or more than enough, nourishment, clothing and everything else they need for body and soul in this life. But if they do not have sufficient goods of this life, all of a sudden they remember God and accuse Him for not giving them what they need. Their attitude towards God is like that of a person who has a lawful claim upon someone else. The ungrateful do not see that it is grace, pure grace, when God gives them what they need. So we have to humble ourselves before God and ask Him to forgive us for our pride, which kept us from thanking Him. And we have to ask for a deeper repentance over our proud ingratitude.
Then we have to take the next step by beginning to record all the good things we receive, either every day or every week. That means not only realizing this in our hearts, but bringing the Father a song or prayer of thanksgiving. It also helps when we have a special "thanksgiving booklet" in which we write down everything we receive. Then at the end of the day, or at the end of the week, either alone or with our family, we can give thanks to God. In this way our hearts practise seeing what good things we have received, from other people as well as God.
Remembering the goodness of God and the kindness of men is the first step to gratitude. Along this road we will come to realize more and more deeply that God is a Father full of love who rejoices in doing us good (Jer. 32: 41). Overwhelmed by this love, our hearts will be filled more and more with gratitude and joy. For grateful people also have good reason to rejoice over God's proofs of love, while ungrateful people are dissatisfied and upset. That is a typical symptom of pride. But the more the Lord shows us our wretchedness and sinfulness the more our hearts will rejoice when the Father in heaven, in spite of all our sins, still gives us good gifts, and people also give us presents. More and more will we learn to give thanks for even His difficult leadings, because we have come to know that His heart of love is behind them. This heart is revealed to the grateful. "Give thanks in all circumstances", says Scripture, "for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thes. 5: 18).
God wants to turn us into grateful people! God calls into existence things-including our gratitude-that do not exist. He will form in us new creations, grateful hearts that will also be humble, joyful and loving. The grateful are always loving. They want to repay those who have done good things for them and made them happy. What a divine radiance lies upon the grateful; the radiance of the kingdom of heaven, for above we will give thanks to God and adore Him without end for all the good that He has done for us. But we will only be there if we have learned how to give thanks here.
Is there anyone who would like to close the door to heaven for himself by being ungrateful? If not, fight the good fight of faith against the sin of ingratitude, and heaven, where joy and love reign, will be opened for you here on earth.